x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Green may mean go, but Amber is the place to be

Singapore gives a preview to Abu Dhabi's Formula One party circuit

The figure weaving his way through the crowd and clambering on to the stage could pass for any of the 1,000 revellers present but there is something oddly familiar about his appearance. It is not until he grabs a microphone, however, and begins crooning: "Tonight's going to be a good night," that the realisation dawns and yet more partygoers cram on to the already packed dance floor. As Taboo from the Black Eyed Peas kicks off his impromptu performance, one over-enthusiastic member of the crowd tries to mount the podium alongside glamorous dancers and has to be gently escorted off.

Last month's Amber Lounge in Singapore certainly gave a taster of what Abu Dhabi can expect this weekend. The UAE capital will have its fair share of star-studded extravagance this weekend, but one of the hottest tickets will be for Amber Lounge, an exclusive after-race event which is held in four venues every season - with the UAE capital chosen as one of the locations for its inaugural Grand Prix.

Entry to the extravaganza does not come cheap, with tables of eight priced at at least Dh77,960, but for fans, it offers a rare chance to get up close and personal to their racing heroes, who often show up to dance the night away and even take a spin on the turntables. Previous events have seen Lewis Hamilton and his brother doing an impromptu performance as DJs and Mark Webber dancing on the tables - which have to be built from specially-reinforced wood to withstand the inevitable number of revellers who climb on top during the night.

As Taboo took to the stage, David Coulthard joined the throng on the dance floor to "throw some impressive shapes," as one onlooker put it. "We call this the fifteen-grand weekend," boasted one reveller, referring to the $15,000 (Dh55,000) cost of flying to the race, paying for trackside access and entry to the after-parties. Of course, not all the partygoers were racing fanatics. Many of those present would never dream of soiling their Jimmy Choos on the racetrack and wouldn't know a pit stop from a paddle.

But according to Natalie Tan, a spokeswoman for the official Formula One lounge in Singapore, which is organised by Tamara Ecclestone, the daughter of the racing boss Bernie Ecclestone, the glamour of the Grand Prix circuit attracts affluent revellers. She said: "It is an extremely extravagant sport that is almost fantastical - $1 million cars, young, handsome drivers with innate talents, beautiful pit girls and parties. It is a world that people enjoy looking in on and being a part of."

But as the race wound to an end at 11pm, the night was just beginning. By 2am, the venue in a black marquee with atmospheric purplish lighting and white sofas was packed with 1,000 people, many making a beeline for the dance floor, filled with tunes by the DJ Jack E, from the Les Caves du Roy club in St Tropez. Among them was Jenson Button and his model girlfriend Jessica Michibata, Rubens Barrichello, Kimi Räikkönen, AJ McLean from the Backstreet Boys and Deborah Priya Henry, a former Malaysian entry for Miss World. By 6am, 250 dancers were still standing when the lights came on.